Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

before they are hanged cover

The basics

Title: Before They Are Hanged


Series: First Law #2

- The Blade Itself (2006)
- Before They Are Hanged (2007)
- Last Argument of Kings (2008)

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Goodreads Summary:

Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It’s enough to make a torturer want to run – if he could even walk without a stick.

Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem – he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world.

And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters. If they didn’t hate each other quite so much.

Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven – but not before they are hanged.

Here is a spoiler summary of what happened in Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie to help refresh your memory before you read the sequel.

what happened in Before They Are Hanged?

  • The Dogman and his crew are heading south. He finds a battlefield full of dead bodies. The crew reaches Ostenhorm but they’re not allowed in as refugees.
  • West and Burr are in a meeting with Lord Governor Meed. Burr is unimpressed by Meed. Burr takes command and lays out his battle plans. West is promoted to Colonel.
  • West and Burr are out riding around the regiment. Threetrees and his group ambush them, but it’s ok because they offer to help.
  • Sult sends Glokta are letter that asks Glokta to investigate Davoust’s disappearance. He is also told to defend the city.
  • Glokta dismisses Harker for killing Davoust’s servants.
  • Glokta meets with the council. They don’t like him.
  • Bayaz shows Jezal around Calcis, an old city that was once populated during the Old Empire.
  • Logen and Longfoot are also in Calcis. They’re planning to disguise themselves as merchants.
  • Bayaz is told he has to leave Calcis within three days.
  • Back in Dagoska, Glokta is worrying about the resources and the number of troops in the city. The Gurkish are gathering in the distance.
  • Glokta meets Cosca, a merchant.
  • Bayaz and his group head towards Darmium. Ferro asks Bayaz about The First Law and Khalul. Bayaz is frustratingly vague.
  • Ferro tries to escape in the night because she no longer trusts Bayaz. Logen stops her.
  • Glokta goes to see Kahdia, who says he hated Davoust but doesn’t know why or how he disappeared.
  • Glokta interrogates Harker, who admits that Davoust was taking money from the natives.
  • Glokta then goes to see Eider, who’s basically HBIC. She refuses to donate any money to the war efforts.
  • Bayaz and the group are still traveling. Quai tells the group about the Old Empire and how the brothers, Juvens and Glustrod, fought.
  • West realises that Ladisla’s men aren’t going to be much use in a fight. Ladisla’s also a bit useless tbh.
  • West brings in prisoners who can work as blacksmiths in the war camp.
  • Jezal is sad because it rained on his coat.
  • Bayaz and co. head to Aulcus instead of Darmium, which was apparently always the plan??
  • The Dogman and his crew come across Bethod’s scouts. They kill them and find a larger army.
  • Bayaz’s group comes across some riders so they hide in the ruins of the Winter Palace.
  • The Arch Lector tells Glokta that they won’t be sending supplies and resources to the city. Glokta has been doing quite well so far despite this. Glokta is met by a man called Mauthis, who represents Valint & Balk, the bank. He offers a loan in return for favours.
  • Logen gives Jezal advice for fighting. Apparently luck is important.
  • One of Cabrian’s soldiers runs into the group and there’s a fight. Bayaz is knocked out. Jezal is embarrassed because he was rubbish in the fight.
  • Glokta has nightmares about being eaten. He wakes up and is visited by Yulwei, who is a magus. Yulwei tells Glokta that the Gurkish are heading towards the city and they now have a navy. They’re also being followed by Khalul’s army. It’s all looking a bit naff for Glokta and co.
  • Yulwei vanishes, but not before telling Glokta that there’s an Eater in the city, and that’s what killed Davoust.
  • Logen is temporarily in charge while Bayaz is out of it. He leads them to Aulcus.
  • West has been getting to know Pike and his daughter Cathil.
  • The Dogman tells West that Bethod and his army are only five days away. West wants to withdraw because they’re not ready, but Ladisla wants to attack them. Probably not the best time to play the hero. Threetrees won’t let his men fight in this stupid battle because they’re all going to lose.
  • A Gurkish emissary arrives in Dagoska and meets with the council. No one told Glokta, of course. The emissary says if they surrender the city peacefully, they’ll allow some people to leave. Sult won’t accept this but Glokta says he’ll consider.
  • Glokta interrogates the emissary, who tells him that Vurms and Eider are the traitors Glokta has been looking for.
  • Riders are still following Bayaz and his group. They decide to fight the riders off.
  • West’s division obviously dies. West tells Jalenhorm to tell Burr what happened.
  • Glokta presents the emissary’s severed head to the council. Eider tries to tell Glokta that the gates have been opened, but Cosca is actually working with Glokta and hasn’t done what the council asked. Eider and Vurms are taken away by Frost.
  • Logen and co. fight off the riders. It’s all very exciting. Jezal manages to fight off two men by himself before getting knocked out.
  • Ladisla sends his cavalry into battle, and Bethod’s army defeats them.
  • Cathil saves West.
  • Vurms and Eider confess to conspiring with the Gurkish, but not to assassinating Davoust. Vurms is beheaded. Eider confesses that she told the Gurkish that Davoust knew what was going on, and then he vanished. She doesn’t know who the assassin is, though.
  • It’s revealed that Shickel was the assassin. She admits that she killed Davoust and ate him (wtf).
  • Jezal is delirious. Logen has to reset his bones.
  • The Dogman and co. are heading north (to follow Bethod) with West and Ladisla. Ladisla wants to be escorted to Ostenhorm but lol, as if.
  • Glokta puts Eider on a ship heading towards Westport. She’s allowed to live as long as she never returns.
  • The Gurkish attack the city.
  • Vitari wants to know where Eider has gone. Glokta tells her she is dead. Vitari offers to lie to Sult for Glokta.
  • Jezal is now scarred and disfigured after being hit over the head with a mace. This might be a good thing though because Jezal is now trying to be a better person.
  • Pike says he once served under Glokta during the Gurkish war.
  • Bayaz and the group run into Magus Zacharus, who wants to become emperor. He offers to fight Khalul with Bayaz. Bayaz declines the offer, and wants to continue to hunt for The Seed.
  • The walls of Dagoska are breached.
  • Shickel is being tortured. She tells Glokta that she became an Eater when one of Khalul’s priests made her eat her mother. These Eaters have special powers, such as extra strength or shapeshifting. Shickel is then burnt to death.
  • Bayaz tells of how Juvens recruited him, and then recruited Khalul and later ten more people. There were a lot of arguments and Juvens had to split them all up. Bayaz then found Kanedias, another master. Bayaz got with her daughter and caused a scene. He had to run away when Kanedias found them together.
  • The others exchange stories of how they got their scars. We learn about how Ferro was sold as a slave.
  • West and his group get into another fight. West ends up biting his opponent in the face.
  • West comes across Ladisla trying to assault Cathil. West pushes Ladisla off a cliff. Lol.
  • Sult sends a letter to get Glokta to come back to Adua. Vitari asks Glokta to take her with him.
  • Jezal thinks about marrying Ardee.
  • Bayaz and the group reach Aulcus. It’s basically dead in there. Ferro starts to hear and see things. Shanka appear from the shadows. Bayaz uses his power to collapse the buildings onto the Shanka. Logen and Ferro fall off a cliff.
  • Luckily, they landed on a ledge. Ferro heads into a tunnel, and Logen follows. They come across a load of Shanka, and Logen lets the Bloody Nine come out.
  • Ferro finds an underground river and the pair escape the tunnels. They sleep together, and I get the impression Ferro is a bit unsatisfied.
  • They make it back to the group.
  • Glokta reaches Adua and goes to find Ardee first. Her apartment is completely empty because Fallow took all their things. Glokta tells Frost to find Fallow.
  • Glokta meets up with Sult. Sult seems weirdly happy because Dagoska has fallen. Glokta isn’t happy with this at all.
  • Ardee returns to her apartment and finds it fully furnished again. She beats Fallow up a bit.
  • Glokta learns that West is missing.
  • West and his group reach Burr’s camp. West introduces Pike as a sergeant.
  • West comes across the Dogman and Cathil together and is a bit upset.
  • Bayaz and the group reach the Broken Mountains. Ferro kills Jezal’s horse for meat.
  • Jezal tells Logen he wants to marry Ardee.
  • Dogman and the group scout out Dunbrec, Bethod’s current base. Dogman finds Shivers and brings him back to the group. Shivers doesn’t like Bethod and joins the team.
  • Glokta has to share the Superior of Adua title with Goyle now Dagoska has fallen. Glokta thinks this is in order for Sult to play the two against one another.
  • Tulkis, a Gurkish envoy, arrives in Adua. He says the Emperor wants peace and offers empty chests to Adua.
  • Bayaz and his group reach the Great Western Library, where Cawneil is. They all have dinner together. Bayaz wants a boat to get to Shabulyan from there.
  • West holds a meeting about what to do about Bethod and his army. He comes up with a plan.
  • West asks Cathil why she chose the Dogman. She says West is too angry.
  • Sult summons Glokta again. Glokta enters the room and finds the body of Crown Prince Reynault, then king’s only heir. Sult wants Glokta to find the murderer.
  • Glokta finds a clue: a piece of white cloth.
  • Glokta interrogates Ambassador Tulkis, who refuses to sign a confession. Sult really wants just anyone to confess. Glokta gets Tulkis’ signature, although he knows he didn’t do it.
  • The battle is about to begin when the Dogman smells Shanka. The Shanka start firing arrows at the men. Cathil is shot and killed.
  • Burr starts vomiting black blood. Yum. West has to hide this from the others so no one can take over the army and cause more trouble.
  • Threetrees dies in battle.
  • Tulkis is executed.
  • Severard tells Glokta he couldn’t find Prince Raynault’s guard, who hasn’t been seen since the murder. Glokta tells Ardee that Tulkis wasn’t the killer.
  • Ardee and Glokta discuss the new king. Apparently the old king had a baby with his lover.
  • Mauthis from Valint & Balk tells Glokta to stop investigating.
  • Bayaz and co. reach the edge of the world. A Spirit gives Ferro a stone, which drives Bayaz mad because it’s not The Seed that he’s after. The crew gets back on a boat.
  • Cathil and Threetrees are buried. Grim says a few words for his chief.
  • Dogman becomes chief.

That’s what happened in Before They Are Hanged! Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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